Helping Educators Thrive while Teaching Online, so They Can Help Students Develop Their Potentials and Promote Resilience and Lifelong Learning in Their Communities

Dr. Bethanie Hansen 

Strategic Educational Leader and Coach

#101: Preparing for Peak Performance in Online Teaching: Part 1

#101: Preparing for Peak Performance in Online Teaching: Part 1

This content first appeared at APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenDepartment Chair, School of Arts, Humanities and Education

Teaching online can be a challenging experience, especially if you are new to the technology or much more experienced with face-to-face teaching. Even if you are experienced at teaching online, a few specific preparation methods before the class begins will promote student success and renewed teacher satisfaction throughout the course. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares tips to help you prepare to teach online before your next class begins, aiming for peak performance in your online teaching.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. We all know that preparing to teach is a worthwhile practice. In fact, preparing has been compared to “sharpening the saw,” by Steven Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people.” Preparing to teach means to approach an upcoming class with a balanced plan for peak performance in your teaching, while also focusing on healthy wellbeing in your physical, social-emotional, mental, and spiritual self. By preserving your greatest asset—yourself—you can be at your best in your teaching and keep fresh to adapt as needed.

In today’s episode, we’ll take a look at part one of a two-part topic. This first part will take you through the practical preparations to teach an online class, including preparing the online classroom, anticipating students’ needs, scheduling your daily work, and focusing on results and outcomes.

Next week, come back for part two, when we’ll take a deeper look at the personal preparation it takes to really sharpen the saw. That will include healthy wellbeing through daily habits, like taking the time to care for your body, mind, spirit, and social and emotional areas.

Peak Performance in Your Online Teaching

Peak performance is a state in which you are able to perform at your best, when you’re feeling confident, wrapped up in the flow of engaged work. You might compare this to the state at which an athlete is performing well with their game, or the way in which a musician is immersed in their performance, feeling the activity to be both natural and effortless, despite the work they are putting in. Where athletes and performers naturally seek out peak performance experiences, people can actually achieve this state in any professional field, including teaching.

You might be thinking that teaching is a learned skill or something that just anyone can do. And, both of these ideas could be true. To enjoy the work, do it well, and feel confident, educators can learn to teach at their own peak performance threshold. Peak performance is highly desirable because it can result in feelings of happiness, fulfillment, and consistent success. And when we teach at, or close to our own peak performance level, everything can seem easier, with greater impact.

The basic building blocks of peak performance include consistent practices in the way we manage time, resources and energy. There is a heavy focus on Covey’s 7th habit of “sharpening the saw” to first cultivate personal wellbeing and inner resources. And there is also a heavy focus on rituals and routines, consistently doing the work now, and focusing on excellence as a habit.

While building a personal foundation for wellbeing and inner resources comes first, the rituals, routines, and consistent work and focus on excellence include preparing well in the work itself. And, this is where our topic today comes in. We’re looking at the personal foundation part of peak performance in next week’s episode, which you’re not going to want to miss.

Preparing your Online Classroom

Preparing your online classroom can become a routine. There are basic steps you can take to ensure that everything is set up to guide your students effectively, and that you are ready for the first day of class.

First, prepare your syllabus, and post it in your online classroom where students can easily see it. If the class is built by someone else, read through the syllabus to refresh your ideas around the goals for the class, the weekly topics, and the assignments.

Next, review the assessments and assignments, including discussions and things students will submit to demonstrate their learning.

As you do this, consider the student perspective to decide whether the instructions and guidance are adequate to help students complete their work, or whether a little revision is needed. And include a scoring breakdown, a grading rubric, or some other clear indication of how students are evaluated, so that they are able to plan for success.

Once you have checked your syllabus, assessments, assignments, and discussions, review your content. If needed, add it to the online classroom. As you review the content and reading materials you’re providing students, again, try to take the student’s perspective. And as you do, ask whether these materials clearly prepare students to demonstrate mastery with their assignments and their assessments, and whether the content supports the course goals.

If some of those areas are not represented in the content, you might need to add a reading, a video, an instructor note or recorded lecture, or some other content to more fully support what students will learn and need to be able to do by the end of class.

And once you’ve reviewed these areas, consider your course announcements and introduction to you, as the instructor. I personally prefer images, videos, and intermittent written materials to guide students in the course announcements and in my introduction as well. Breaking up your content with images and other engagement can help students interact and remember what they are seeing.

As you finish preparing your online classroom, look for a student view. Many LMSs have the ability to transition to student view so that you, as the instructor, can see everything as your students will see it. As you do this, note anything that is not visible or needs adjustment, and make those adjustments.

As you walk through your own classroom preparation routine and write down your steps, you can add to your process and adjust over time to make preparations more efficient. Writing your routine can also give you the space to reflect around what works, what doesn’t, and where you can take the quality up a level. This routine and repetition loop is where you can focus on excellence and set yourself up for peak performance in your online teaching before you hit day one of the class.

Anticipating Students’ Needs

Before class begins, learn about your students, and try to anticipate their needs. You might be able to tell whether your students are in their first semester, whether they have taken classes before, or whether they are repeating the course after a previous attempt. If you cannot learn these details before class begins, you can set up your first week’s discussion to ask students more about their backgrounds, their experience with the subject matter, and their comfort level with online classes.

With information about your students’ needs individually and collectively, you’re in a good position to anticipate their needs throughout the course. For example, if you have students who are in their first semester and new to online learning, you might create a screencast to walk them through the classroom in the first week.

And, you might consider a topic organizer to help them think about their project, as well as a video-walkthrough of the technology they will need to complete their project. As you anticipate students’ needs, ask yourself, “What would help me most, if I was the student?” And considering the background, experience, and other information your students have shared, you’ll be in a good position to help your students make progress in their learning and handle the technologies of the online classroom. The more you learn about your students and prepare to help them with their needs and challenges, the more capacity you will have to teach well at peak performance.

Scheduling Your Daily Work

When preparing the online classroom and then teaching the class, scheduling your daily work will give you the consistency to build on for peak performance. After all, planning your time makes you the master of your work and your schedule. And you will be able to avoid feeling overwhelmed and crushed by what can seem like a heavy load when teaching online classes.

One idea to help you schedule your online classroom preparation work is to stop by the course each day to complete one readiness task per day, leading up to the first day of the class. Using the process of preparing a class I mentioned earlier, you might first review or prepare your syllabus.

And the next day, review assignments and discussions. And each day, tackle one task. Not only does this give you power over your time and help you to pace yourself, but it also helps your subconscious brain realize that you’re getting ready to teach the course, so that you’re making mental space to get into your peak performance teaching mode when class begins.

Just as you might break down your course preparation tasks into a routine that happens consistently each day, scheduling your daily work for teaching the class will help keep you moving on schedule and make your teaching time a regular, routine part of your day. As you create a habit, or a routine, around scheduling your daily work, you can build in learned optimism to think about each day as a fresh start, let go of temporary setbacks or challenges with students, and push forward to keep improving your experience.

Focusing on Results and Outcomes

Focusing on results and outcomes is an important part of continuous improvement and developing peak performance. If you were a ski racer, just imagine, you would be able to use the timing of your race and other factors to gauge whether your performance is at the level you want and whether you keep improving.

In a similar way, you can use data to help you see the results in your teaching. Planning ahead to think about this data before the class begins may help you further plan for your students’ needs, so that you get the information you really want at the end of class, to see your own teaching performance better.

One obvious source of data for results and outcomes is your students’ performance in formative discussions and in course assessments. You might be able to look at your students’ average course grades, assignment grades, the level of their engagement in discussions each week, and other statistics that give you data to interpret and from which you can take action.

Another source of data could be your own records of daily and weekly teaching work, the time you’re spending, and the reflections you have about where you’re confident and performing well, and where you feel like additional attention and growth might help you.

If you’re tense, anxious, and restless about different parts of your teaching, these feelings suggest that you’re not in the peak performance space. Focusing on specific areas will help you know what is influencing your experience, so that you can adjust the one or two areas where you have room to grow, and you can recognize where you are doing well.

Peak Performance Tips

As you prepare your online class and your habits for peak performance in your online teaching, keep in mind that you can find flow every day at work. Flow means that you get the most reward from what you’re doing, and you can even learn to love those parts that you have to do by focusing on excellence in your routine or your delivery of that aspect of your work. Finding flow in your work will always require skill and challenge, and it feels like the state of being completely focused, immersed in the activity, and absorbed in what you’re doing.

Preparation is one key to teaching well, and focusing on what you can control and do gives you the space to take action and prepare for an excellent class. As you prepare, consider which parts of your online teaching can become routines to be consistently used and improved over time, and consider where you might need some positive self-talk or conversations with other people to maintain motivation and mastery over your time.

And lastly, consider a performance routine. An athlete might have a lucky shirt to wear, or a chant before taking the field. A musician might have a particular warm-up method or visualization practice to get ready to step out on that stage. And an online educator might have a favorite mug or background music, an outfit that makes them feel like they are in the work zone, or an exercise habit before work that brings focus and energy. Whatever might work for you, the value of consistent routines can pave the way for an excellent online teaching experience.

Thank you for joining us today to talk about peak performance in your online teaching by preparing the classroom, anticipating your students’ needs, scheduling your daily work, and focusing on results and outcomes. When we start a course having thought through these areas and thinking about the goals to be achieved at the end, and we aim for peak performance. We can serve our students much better and maintain a high level of teaching quality throughout our time with them. If you’ve heard something valuable today, please share this episode with a friend.

And, of course, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week and invite you to come back next week for part two on this topic.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#76: How to use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

#76: How to use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

How to Use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

This content first appeared at APUEdge.Com.

Moving your class online can be intimidating and take some creativity. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen gives you a tour of the main spaces in a learning management system and some basic ideas for the types of content you might use and how it can improve the course delivery as well as enhance student learning.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

If you’ve taught classes before, but they were live face-to-face classes, moving your class online might seem like a heavy lift. But it doesn’t have to be. In the previous episode of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast, I shared a basic overview about online education to give you a foundation. And today, I’ll walk you through the concept of a learning management system.

If you use one, it will give you an organized space to put different kinds of materials and activities that will build out your class. And in today’s world with widely available internet, teaching online is becoming so much more common. There are many learning management systems you can choose from.

Throughout the podcast, I’ll just call these learning management systems the LMS for short. You might hear terms like learning management system (LMS), course delivery system (CDS), and course management system (CMS) used interchangeably by people in the online education industry, but these all refer to the same kinds of systems.

As of today when I’m recording this podcast, there are more than 200 different free, subscription-based, and sales-based LMS’s currently available to host online courses in business, training, and education. Can you believe that?

Here are some common brand names you might have heard of, of educational LMS’s: BlackboardMoodleSchoologyCanvasD2L BrightspaceSakai. If you are an independent educator not teaching for a school system or college, you might be using a commercial LMS like KajabiTeachableThinkificAdobe Captivate Prime, or Learndash. There are so many, that we can’t talk about all of them right now or get very specific about just one LMS, I’m going to be general but I will go through their basic parts.

Whatever your LMS, the system will function as the main program or software application where you will deliver your class. You’ll keep the lessons there, assignments, and other documentation, and administer the session in terms of attendance, tracking performance of your students, and submitting grades. To accomplish all of these teaching and course design tasks, there are several different spaces in the LMS.

Understanding Each Space of a LMS

There is usually a home page for the course, where you can welcome students and identify the name of the class. You might also have a few other items available on the course home page, like an assignment calendar, an introduction to you as the teacher, and course announcements. And somewhere in the online classroom space, there will be a menu or tabs to click, leading to designated areas that deliver lesson curriculum, host the interaction—like a chat,  instant message tools, discussions, and things like that—and accept and retrieve assessments.

The spaces within an LMS each serve a purpose and they help keep things organized for you as the instructor and for your students. These spaces typically include labels like lessons or content, assignments, discussions, blogs, wikis, journals, announcements, tests, quizzes, exams, grade book, progress or statistics, and other editing or reporting features.

As technology continues to develop every day, many LMS’s are now including mobile apps for smart phones and other portable devices, diverse content options, creation tools, customizable learning paths, adaptive learning, badging, assessment variety—like polls, surveys, and traditional quizzes—discussion forums, and new types of reports or dashboards.

Each space, or page, in the LMS has a purpose. And that depends on what it is intended to do. Although each LMS might be a little bit different, these spaces have the same general purpose from one LMS to the next. As I talk about them in with you today, think about the potential uses of these spaces for your own class.

I’ll give you just one example right here. Discussion spaces are designed to allow students and their instructors to post their own responses, reply to others, view entire threaded conversations, and also share linked or embedded content. The discussion forum would be a great place for students to practice using terminology that they are being taught in the class for the subject matter. And they can also apply concepts to their real lives and share ideas, respond to others about their thoughts and ideas, and feel out their general understandings as conversations unfold.

Discussion areas can be particularly useful spaces to give your students the opportunity to practice using new terms and share their formative ideas while they’re being guided and assisted by others, and to expect that these ideas might become more refined through the process of discussion, as they keep talking and posting about these ideas with other people during the class.

I’m going to dive into each of these spaces one at a time and give you a general idea of what you can do with them. I hope this will help you design your class, as you move your live class into the online format. Let’s start with the lessons area.

Using the Lessons Section

The Lessons area is one of the main sections of the classroom and one where students will spend a lot of time. It might also be the space that takes the most time and consideration to build. Most people would consider this a replacement of the live lecture. And that can be one way to use it, if you want to record a video of yourself teaching your students as if they are sitting in the same room with you. And then, you can post that video in the classroom.

While you can do that, and it would be the easiest way to convert your live class into an online version, the lessons section of your LMS can contain all kinds of content like videos, interactive media, links, typed content, images, and other items.

Your goal in the lessons area might be to introduce the subject for the week, give background information on various topics, provide reading selections or links to the online textbook for your students, engage their interest through media and interaction, and wrap up your lesson with a closing summary of the key points.

The lessons section can be vibrant, engaging, interactive, and full of information. Or, the lessons section can be brief and simply include a list of readings and other activities the student should complete and your video.

Whatever you choose to include, remember that when you’re using an LMS and teaching online, you can load up lots of engaging content that actually provides the instruction for the week, as well as opportunities for self-directed learning and exploration. This kind of choice and autonomy is especially important if you have adult learners.

The lessons section does not have to be a substitute for the weekly readings if you are also using a textbook and other materials for the class. Instead, think of it like the guidance and interpretation an instructor would normally provide to help students truly understand the topics.

In my area, teaching music appreciation courses, many students come to the class with little or no background knowledge in music. Other students, particularly those who participated in music during high school or other public schooling years, may have some cursory knowledge of music and music terms.

Because there are so many people with low to no background knowledge in music today, the lessons area is a great place to introduce new terms every week, and give interpretation of the lesson topics within the frame of music concepts. There is a lot we have to include there, to guide students effectively.

Announcements Section

The announcements section in any online course is also a place of importance, because it presents instructor information about the ongoing class to students, an overview of weekly goals, and a summary of items to be submitted.  This area can be updated once per week or more frequently.

Announcements might contain information such as a brief overview of the topic, a list of items due at the end of the week, and reminders. This section is for all of the messages that are to be publicly provided to everyone in the class. Announcement posts may have the option of sending a copy out to participants’ email addresses, which ensures that students receive updated information promptly.

Assignments Section

The assignment section is another space common to most online LMS’s. Here, the actual work to be submitted for grading is described, with some kind of dropbox available to collect the completed work. This section can usually be set with open and closing dates so that assignments appear to students, accept submissions, and lock at the end of a given period.

If the LMS offers the option of linking assignments to the calendar, students can receive reminders about upcoming or missed due dates. In the assignment section, it is common for course designers or instructors to provide model assignments to students, documents that provide sample formatting like APA or MLA style, and other assets that may guide the student in how the work should be completed.

Anything you can do to give them an idea of what it’s going to look like when it’s done, that is going to reassure them. Because the course is entirely online and students do not have the option of asking multiple questions about the assignments in real time, the assignment section typically needs a lot of description and detail, so students can complete the work in a satisfactory manner.

Believe me, I’ve been there where students have misunderstood the assignment. And I’ll get 25 essays where students have all missed the mark. That takes a lot of time to fix.

In the assignment area, if the option is available, instructors may choose to have work scanned through a plagiarism or originality checker such as BibmeTurnitin, or SafeAssign. Using plagiarism detecting tools or programs enables the instructor to address writing concerns quickly, and it reminds students to write in their own words as much as possible, potentially improving the originality of submitted work.


Discussions are another space common to online course LMS’s, and this area is typically where most of the interaction between participants occurs. Discussions begin with a description of what is to be discussed, requirements of when initial posts and replies to others are to be posted, and some indication of how participation will be evaluated.

In the discussions area, most participants begin their involvement in the discussion by posting an initial thread to the forum. Once a thread is posted, those who reply to that post are linked underneath the initial post. In this way, Posts that are all about the same subject or to the same initial post are linked together in a threaded chain. Everyone who visits the discussion may be able to see the conversation that has unfolded, and separate conversations that are also occurring.

Often, because there isn’t a central location to discuss course related questions or other matters, instructors post a “questions” thread within a discussion area so students can separately ask questions about course deadlines, content, and other matters aside from the actual discussion topic for the week. Discussion forum areas within a learning management system typically have private spaces for grading comments and scoring, and these can be linked to a gradebook to reflect ongoing course grades.

Many people consider the discussion forum area of an online course the equivalent of the live, face to face interaction, that might otherwise occur in a live class in a traditional Setting. An asynchronous conversation, of course, is not exactly the same as a live conversation that would take place in a traditional classroom setting.

Asynchronous discussions are like many conversations taking place at the same time. Some conversations may be missed, and no one could possibly hear every conversation taking place in a live classroom, if group dialogs were simultaneously occurring in this manner. However, in the online classroom, most instructors are expected to read the entire conversation under every single thread that has taken place, especially prior to grading the work.

Within a live classroom, an instructor might not hear or respond to every single comment a student provides. In fact, many conversations occur, especially during group work, that an instructor does not hear and is not part of.

One other difference about discussion forums online is that students and instructors both can post interactive or multimedia content, which might not otherwise be used in a live setting. For example, form discussions have the advantage of being able to host YouTube links, presentations, and virtually anything that is available online or in a presentation format. This can enhance discussions in ways that typical live exchanges may not be enhanced in a normal classroom setting.


The gradebook is one section of the online learning classroom not always considered but vitally important to the management of the course. Many online LMS’s have gradebook sections that can be set up either by points or by weighted percentages. Here, the forum discussions are linked into the gradebook, the assignments are linked into the gradebook, and other categories may also be added. Scores and evaluative comments are published to students as soon as grades are available, so that students are aware at all times of how they are performing in the class. Most LMS’s still require some vigilance on the part of the instructor to double check categories, assignments, and the student view, to ensure that assignments not submitted on time receive a zero, and that the student’s grade book is kept up-to-date at any given point during the class.

Other Sections in the LMS

The lessons section, announcements, assignments, discussion forums, and gradebook are the basic structure available in most LMS’s today. Some LMS provide the option of additional tools, such as blogs, wikis, journals, and other text environment areas. Some LMS’s may also provide a space for listing multimedia content, posting web links within the course itself, or other features.

As an instructor moves to the online format, getting to know the online classroom space is vitally important in order to use it effectively. Although one can reach out to technical support at most colleges and universities for assistance in resolving conflicts within the online classroom, being able to diagnose problems within the course is critical before the course begins.

In contrast to a live class, where lessons can be fleshed out more fully as the course unfolds, an online course is typically expected to be completely set up prior to day one of the class.

Things to Know About Observers

In addition to all the areas described here that exist in most LMS’s, one interesting factor is that all actions to take place within the class are observable and “on the record.” Reports can be drawn based on these activities, such as attendance by the student and the instructor, comments made, assignments submitted, and so forth.

Students are able to see when others are actually in the online course, and so can the instructor or other observers.

In contrast to live courses, where the instructor is generally the only university employee in the room with students during a class, in the online setting, there may be many other observers stopping by the class at any given point.

Observers might include technical support teams, supervisors, faculty coaches, academic appeals departments, and other team members at the institution. Some institutions treat the online course environment similarly to the live setting, giving the instructor complete autonomy and intervening little.

Other universities are quite hands-on, and may be in the space with the instructor much more, observing often, and also producing standardized courses with little to be changed by individual instructors. These differences come from a variety of factors, but it can be helpful to be aware that they exist.

Keep it Simple When Just Starting Out

As you work to move a class into an LMS and take your teaching online, I hope you will fully explore each of these spaces available. Get creative, and let the LMS support the new and interesting things you can do which were not available in a live face to face class. And when you’re finished planning out where you will conduct each activity, and what you need to add in each section of the LMS for a strong learning experience, look for a setting that allows you to see the class in student mode—so that you know whether everything is working and can be seen by your students.

And of course, once you launch the class and you’re teaching it, be as prompt as possible to fix any errors or misalignment in the class, so that your students have a good experience and can accomplish what you expect from them.

Above all, if you’re completely new at this, take it one step at a time. Don’t expect yourself to build an amazing course with lots of bells and whistles from the very first day. Keep it simple, and add more as you feel comfortable doing it, until you’ve developed your class online in the way you would like. Over time, you’ll get better and better at using the LMS.

Thank you for joining me today to walk through the main spaces of an online classroom and think about your own course online. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching!

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#75: Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

#75: Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com. 

Online education is a bit different from live teaching and learning. In today’s podcast, Dr. Bethanie Hansen gives a brief orientation to similarities and differences between live and online education, to help educators prepare to move a class online. Learn how online education is an opportunity to expand your teaching and learning possibilities in new ways, and it is not a strict copy of the live class.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. Our audience includes educators all over the world, and in varying stages of teaching online. If you’re listening to this particular episode, chances are that you want a general overview of online education, to know if you’ve approached it effectively. Or maybe you just want to get started and have not taught online before.

Today, we’re going to take a look at different kinds of online education and walk through what makes online learning unique. This orientation is a description of what online education is, and what it is not, with some tips to help you think about moving your course online.

Today, we’ll look at a background on live courses, which I like to call “face-to-face,” of “live, traditional classes,” and we’ll briefly explore ideas to help you think about similarities and differences between live and online courses. In the future, we will refer back to this foundation when we talk about how you might move your live class to an entirely online format.

In today’s episode, we’re laying a foundation that will springboard into several topics for future episodes to come even beyond merely moving your course online. So plan now to subscribe to this podcast [Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcherPandora.] Share it with your friends and colleagues who are teaching online. And help others you know grow in their own online teaching skills and philosophy. After all, you are not alone teaching online. There are thousands of us teaching online all around the world, and when you share this podcast, you help others feel part of this bigger professional community. And, you might even decide that this is a fun and rewarding career direction.

What is Online Education?

The term “online education” is widely used today to refer to any learning experience that includes part of the experience online over the Internet. Online education is becoming more common today, particularly due to the world pandemic. By now, most schools, universities, colleges, and organizations have some kind of online education or online training. Online education generally includes various approaches and options for course delivery, such as entirely online classes, blended and hybrid courses, massive open online courses (MOOCs), independent study, and various adaptations of these approaches. Today we are focusing on courses that are taught 100% online. However, many of the tools, concepts, and strategies presented can easily be applied to blended or hybrid and face-to-face environments.

Entirely Online Education

The 100% online class is now a common form of online education. Perhaps you are teaching this kind of class. In this type of educational experience, courses are offered completely online with students and instructors participating asynchronously within a learning management system (LMS). The LMS is a program or computerized platform that gives structure to the experience, including distinct spaces for document storage, lessons, assignments, discussions, a grade book, and other components.

When participants engage in the course asynchronously, this means that each person is involved in learning activities and dialogue at a time of their own choosing during the day or night and throughout the week. In addition to time gaps between connecting to other people and course content, students and faculty are geographically separated. Everyone may be able to use a variety of technology tools from smartphones to laptops and PCs for access.

Just as a wide variety of internet-accessible devices can be used to engage in online education, the pacing and scheduling of your time in an entirely online course is generally flexible, to some extent. And just like you, students can decide when they would like to participate each week. A minor variation of this model could be that you provide a live lecture, where students are expected to log in at a day and time that has been pre-arranged, to meet with you live through the online course. And with the pandemic, there might even be the option for some to attend live, in the face-to-face classroom, while others view the course live at home using the online platform.

There are some perks to teaching and learning online. First, entirely online courses are considered a versatile option for students who want flexibility. Most of us think that an entirely online course means students can complete their coursework “anytime, anywhere.” Just like them, we as the instructors appreciate the opportunity to teach online courses because they give us flexible scheduling and can be accommodated around our other commitments.

The greatest benefit to courses taught entirely online is the flexibility this learning modality gives us all to engage at our own convenience, and the greatest challenge is the perception of isolation participants may feel due to physical and temporal separation from others in the class. As a faculty member teaching online, it can also seem as though the work follows us everywhere and never ends. Work-life boundaries become much more important. Participating in online education requires a significant degree of self-discipline, time management, commitment, independence, and technology proficiency for both student and faculty.

Blended (Hybrid) Courses

Blended classes, also commonly called hybrid courses, are increasingly common and involve live, face-to-face meetings as well as online components. In this type of educational arrangement, courses include some live, face-to-face meetings at a pre-determined time and location and some online components such as document storage, assignment submissions, an online grade book, and online resources and lesson content.

Blended courses now come in a variety of combinations, and some universities are referring to these adaptations as “HyFlex” courses. They include aspects of both live and online learning, and while it can be challenging to determine what will be accomplished face-to-face and what belongs in the online component, it’s also possible that this type of online learning is the best of both worlds. You can get the synergy from live discussions during the face-to-face class meetings, which can be a catalyst for deep learning. And, the technology aspects from online components can direct students to more individualized, rich learning content and additional enrichment options.

Instructors must decide how much content will be presented in each of the two course environments, and how to structure the overall experience for learners to avoid doubling the student workload. Benefits of blended courses include a routine to support learners through live meetings where you can clarify things, guide students through the LMS and how to access it, and answer questions. And, the structured flexibility and richness of online components. When you compare blended classes to live, traditional courses, blended classes meet less often to give students time to also complete online work. Fewer live class meetings can present challenges keeping students on track if they miss class.

Face-to-Face Classes

Face-to-face classes supported by online components are courses provided in traditional, live formats with resources, assignments, or other components organized in a learning management system (LMS). Learning management systems can be effectively used to allow students to submit work outside the classroom environment, send assignments to plagiarism verification services, and enable instructors to grade and return work conveniently online.

The online support used in traditional, live courses may be as basic as using an assignment and grading interface and as elaborate as providing interactive readings, assessments, and multimedia content for homework, and even taking attendance in the LMS. Although classes supported by online components are similar to blended or hybrid offerings, they typically use the online framework only to support the live class, rather than instead of meeting for live classes. One benefit of including online components is the instant nature of submitting work and returning grading feedback. It’s also nice to have the possibility of using interactive textbooks, which add to students’ exploration and learning.

Adaptability in Teaching

If you think about the many kinds of online options available in education today, it may seem that many approaches and strategies are needed for each institution’s circumstances. This is true, and fortunately, anyone can customize their approach to teaching online to use all or only a little of the structure available. But even when we are customizing our approach to online education, there are many strategies and tools that can be easily used both in live face-to-face classes and when teaching entirely online.

And this brings us to our comparison between live classes and online classes.

Live versus Online Courses

If you’re thinking about moving you class online and you are worried that things will have to be very different, that could be true. Or, you can consider a few modifications to help move your activities online in ways that maintain a lot of what you would have done with the live class. Just in case you’re a bit nervous about teaching your courses online, I want to reassure you that students can still learn well and have good experiences online.

In a study of students who had taken both live, traditional and entirely online courses, those surveyed overwhelmingly reported that their online experiences were at least as good or better than their on-campus experiences (Clinefelter & Aslanian, 2017).

And to give them those positive experiences, we need to decide what essentials to include in the online course design. To decide what you’ll need to modify and what you can keep in this transition of taking an existing live class to teaching your course online, I’ll take a moment to highlight a few things about live classes.

What are the Standard Features of a Live, Traditional Course?

In saying “live, traditional course,” I’m referring to classes that meet face-to-face, at a set time and in a specific physical location. A live, traditional course is very common and has been the main method of delivering higher education courses over the past several hundred years throughout the world.

In higher education history, enrolling in college meant attending live, traditional classes. Individuals who worked full-time with families and established adult lives found it difficult or impossible to pursue degree programs due to scheduling conflicts, and those who lived too far from campus lacked access to this opportunity. You had to move closer to campus to get a college degree.

Here are some of the features of live, traditional courses:

  • Classes are held live, with the instructor and all participants attending at the same time, in the same location.
  • Students can see each other, interact informally before and after class, and have conversations in real time that include body language, live voices, and the inferences and impressions that accompany face-to-face conversations.
  • If students appear to misunderstand peers or the instructor, they can ask questions in real time.
  • The instructor can immediately introduce new ideas, examples, and resources to provide additional background on a given topic if they seem relevant in the moment.
  • Students who have peers in more than one class can see them in each of these places, and they begin to recognize classmates. Make friends. Build peer relationships that may support and sustain them during the class or throughout their entire adult lives afterward.
  • There is some disconnect between the individual reading, homework, and outside-of-class activities in which students engage as part of the course, when compared to the group dialogue and instruction that occurs during the class itself.
  • When a student misses class, it is difficult to find out all that they missed, because some of the content is social interaction.
  • And of course, my favorite, being physically present in the classroom gives students a sense of formality about the fact that they are attending a class and participating in an educational activity. There’s something about this that triggers the brain to get into learning mode and the physical boundaries of live, traditional classes help cut down the outside distractions and make the class time easier to see as the focus for that hour or so.

What are the Standard Features of an Online Course?

“Online course” is general, and this could be the 100% online version, the hybrid or HyFlex, or an adaptation of online parts. There are many variations to online education, and online courses have developed into a new educational norm most students experience at some point while completing a degree in one variation or another.

What I’ll outline here are the standard features that can become part of an online course.

  • Classes are held asynchronously, with the instructor and all participants entering the course at different times and at any location where internet access is available.
  • Students’ interaction with each other occurs in discussion forums, chat spaces, or question and answer threads located somewhere within the course, unless they arrange to communicate further by phone or other means away from the online classroom.
  • Students cannot see each other or their instructor unless photos or videos are posted to provide identity and engagement.
  • Online course conversations do not happen in real time and might consist only of text, unless audio or video clips are added.
  • There is time to think about what you will write and post in the class, and students can think about this too, rather than speaking in the moment. And things posted online can also be edited and revised after they are posted.
  • And when students struggle with concepts or misunderstand, they might be able to look up the answer on the internet immediately or have to wait patiently for others to enter the course and answer their questions, or hear back from their instructor.

Because most or all of the learning is happening online and in the online classroom space, the learning experience has the potential to be comprehensive and focused. Everything is in one location. There can be a seamless integration between individual work, readings, and course activities, and the teaching and collaborative dialogue that occur in discussion areas.

Each part of the course has a specific location and resources, organized in some type of learning management system (LMS). For example, discussions occur in a specific area and can be accessed by clicking a tab or link in the LMS. Assignments and assignment descriptions are available in a different area, also accessible through a link or tab. With course components each in specific, labeled areas of the LMS, a course has structure and some degree of organization. To be present in the online classroom, all you need to do is log in and click links or activities. When a student misses class, the missed content is still part of the course and they can review what was missed.

Although the structured online course environment might seem a bit formal, boundaries are challenging to maintain when you are learning or teaching entirely online. You might experience interruptions with your internet connection, or interruptions from your email and social media accounts. And, of course, there are non-technological interruptions, like having someone knock at your door, call you on the telephone, or walk into the room while you’re working to start a conversation. Flexibility in working anytime, anywhere gives individual students and you, as their instructor, the need to set boundaries and also the opportunity to schedule the work at times that fit your own circumstances.

What are the Similarities and Differences of Live and Online Courses?

In both your live, face-to-face course, and an online course, you will teach or present subject-matter content, allow students to interact, and include some kind of method to give and collect assignments and grading feedback. In both cases, you must be aware of how much work you’re expecting and meet contact hour requirements for the credit hours of the class. And you can get to know your students and interact with them in both types of courses.

Your relationships with students might be different when teaching them entirely online. Some instructors seem to feel more connection with students online, because they can slow down and review what students have said, see their photograph, and get a sense of every student in the class. And some feel that students are harder to get to know when teaching them online. The nature of relationships between students and their instructor or peers is going to be different when you move your course online because there isn’t the single time and space connection, where you experience and get to know them in real time.

The way you present your content also varies. In live traditional courses, you might give a spoken or guided lecture or demonstration. But in online courses, students determine which resources they access, whether they see the lesson, click on a video, or read the online written materials, and how deeply they explore the content, and to some degree, the pace of their learning activities.

A Discussion of What Online Education Is and Is Not

Although you might want to design your online class to be a duplicate of your live class, it’s a great idea to explore the special strategies and tools available online that could transform your teaching. Online education is an opportunity to expand teaching and learning possibilities in new ways, and it is not a strict copy of the live class.

You can include rich resources, interactivity, and engaging things like videos, apps, multimedia presentations, and other tools, through which your students are free to explore and navigate. For example, students can create an Animoto presentation with photos of themselves and post it in the first week’s discussion forum to introduce themselves to the rest of the class. This type of presentation does not require sophisticated writing or a speech, because it consists mainly of just photographs. Tools like this one can be used creatively to help students produce assignments and discussions, as well as by you, their instructor, to provide engaging lesson content and guidance students need throughout the course.

The engaging aspects of online education continue to grow over time as new apps, programs, and tools are developed. It might be tempting to think online education is a duplicate of the live classroom to ensure important parts of the course are included, but trying to imitate the live course can be difficult. Imitating a live course could mean that an instructor feels compelled to create lecture videos that would simulate what might be provided in a live class, as an example. This is a great idea, but it is not always necessary as part of the lesson content. Although the content itself might be similar between live and online versions of a course, the methods, strategies, and delivery vehicles can be different.

Online education is a unique modality. It is a specific way to deliver the college or university experience to those who need special scheduling, prefer to work over the computer or internet rather than participate in a live setting, or who have other needs that are met through this modality. And of course, online education is incredibly helpful in unexpected times, like during a pandemic. Online education is not perfect, but it is flexible, enriching, and unique.

Join me next time, on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast, when we dive into the details of your online classroom structure. This will be your orientation about the spaces like lessons, discussions, quizzes, assignments, announcements, and more. With this orientation to the different parts of your online classroom, you’ll be prepared to think in more detail when you move your live class to the online format, and you’ll find it a much easier task.

And if you’re already an experience online educator, you’ll get a few new ideas you can try out in your existing online courses, too! Remember, tell a friend, tell a colleague, and let’s help all of us enjoy teaching online much more, and have fun while we’re doing that. Thanks for being here, and best wishes in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#72: A Quick Guide to Blended Learning for Online Educators

#72: A Quick Guide to Blended Learning for Online Educators

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Teachers and trainers can develop effective blended learning using this quick guide to course design. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares tips to help online educators set a clear goal for the course, write a course outline, detail both the online and live portions of the course, design collaboration and interactivity, plan communication, consider learning resources, and design assessments.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. I’m so glad you’re here, and I want to welcome our listeners from all around the world who enjoy this podcast. One of our listeners in India this past week sent a message asking for help with blended learning. Today’s episode is a quick guide to blended learning for all of you who may be facing this kind of pattern.

Blended learning means that some of your learning is taking place in the virtual classroom. This could be in a learning management system of some kind or by email, whatever method that you choose to deliver that online content. The other half or other segments of the learning are delivered face-to-face. This could be in a live classroom, say you’re going down to the local campus and meeting as a group. It could be a tele-class where there are groups distributed in different geographical areas all meeting by videoconference. Or, it could be individually through Zoom or some other kind of web conferencing. But that other half of the blended learning is taking place live.

Whatever your method of the live component of your learning, the online learning component can be challenging to design and set up—especially if you’re not sure how to design two different halves without duplicating your efforts. I have some experience with this.  I designed some hybrid courses several years ago for a local community college, and I also taught those courses. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned and also what are some good best practices.

Here are your seven steps to create blended learning courses. I’ll share all steps with you up front and then I’ll go through each one and give you some details to help you out.

  1. Set a clear goal for the course.
  2. Outline what you’ll accomplish. That includes what you will do online as well as what you will do face-to-face.
  3. In your outline, detail those online and live portions of the course.
  4. Design collaboration and interactivity.
  5. Create a communication plan.
  6. Cultivate resources.
  7. Design your assessments.

Tip 1: Set a Clear Goal for the Course

Let’s go with number one: set a clear goal for your course. When you’re designing a blended learning situation, or a hybrid course, you want to know what you’re going to teach the students during that course. Define the learning outcomes.

When you’re backward mapping, in true backward mapping, this part of the process will also include some idea of your assessments that will ultimately measure students’ learning at the end of the course. If you know how you’re going to measure that learning as you’re designing it from the beginning, this is a really cohesive approach to outlining content later on.

Think about whether students need to pass a major exam, provide a practical demonstration of their learning, write about their experience, or provide some other artifact to show mastery of what you will teach them. This big-picture goal helps you design the scope of the course, in general. For example, if I’m going to be teaching some kind of music appreciation course, I will decide what eras in history to include, what genres and styles, what nationalities of music I might bring in, which major composers, and which interesting selections that I might have. Generally speaking, this is going to be part of my thinking as I’m setting that goal. But those details won’t really be nailed down until later.

I’m also going to be thinking about what students will be able to do with that knowledge and what they will need to demonstrate at the end of the course with that knowledge. So, that first goal upfront is helping you to set boundaries around what you’re going to teach and also clarify what you’re going to teach.

Tip 2: Outline The Weekly Goals, Topics, and Content of your Course

Number two: outline the weekly goals, topics, and content of your course. This will help you break down each week into manageable chunks of content, learning activities, and formative assessments to guide students along.

Formative assessments are those smaller ways of assessing your students to know how they’re doing. Formative assessments can be small, like a discussion board in an online section of the course. They can be quizzes. They can be just discussions in the live part of your hybrid or blended course. Whatever you do for formative assessments, these should be ways for the instructor to check in along the way to know how students are doing in the class, and also ways for students to gauge their own mastery along the way.

They should be able to do formative assessments to adjust their approach, to study more, to go back and review or to somehow adjust their progress and make sure that they can pass that course by the end of the term together.

When you’re doing this outline of weekly goals, topics, and content, I suggest something like a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. On one column, you can list the different weeks of the course. This is basically a timeline. In the next column, you can list the topics, or the weekly goals, or both. Then in the next column, this would be the column to list the things you might consider doing in the online part of your class. What will need to be placed in the online classroom? What kinds of online content would you like to provide, and activities? And then, in the next column you can list what you would need to do during the live parts of the class.

And I suggest that during the live part, you’re going to have a lot of different information to share those first few weeks, and I’ll get to that in just a minute. So, outlining your weekly goals, topics, and content can take place very easily in some kind of a spreadsheet or database type of software.

Tip 3: In your Outline, Detail Those Online and Live Portions of the Course

On your outline, give the details of options for the online teaching and engagement, and the face-to-face time. You’ll want to break these down into significant activities in both places. There will be learning content and there will be some kind of interactivity, but it’s important not to duplicate your activities.

So if you have a discussion online, then you’re also going to meet live, that we can have the same kind of discussion. That’s what I mean when I say: don’t duplicate. You can have that discussion in the live space and then have some kind of a follow-up question-answer or message board. But having an additional online discussion when you’ve already had a live discussion is quite a bit for students to be doing.

Ask yourself, “Will both parts be online?” Asynchronous learning is the LMS component or the online component of the course. And that’s the part that students should be able to access any time during the week and engage in throughout the week on their own. The synchronous learning will be done live, and this could be done entirely through videoconferencing like Zoom or some other platform. It could be done face-to-face in the live classroom, all in one group, or maybe students are distributed in different geographic locations just coming together through a teleconference in groups. Regardless of the live format, you want to figure out whether this live format is online as well as the course, or if it is actually taking place physically?

If it’s going to be online as well, you might consider adding some additional guidance and details about how to engage in the live parts, and how to engage in the asynchronous parts. That will make your blended learning experience a lot more positive for students, because they’ll know what to expect. And they’ll have no trouble getting online and engaging in both parts of your class.

If you have a live section where students will be physically face-to-face with you, that can be explained or demonstrated and you won’t have to have as much guidance about the live portion in your online section. As you’re doing the outline and detailing what you’ll do online and what you’ll do face-to-face, use Bloom’s taxonomy to design depth and engaged learning that goes beyond fact-based recall and basic knowledge. Now this is especially important if you’re teaching a training, and not just an academic course.

If you’re doing some kind of training where people need to be able to reproduce the skills or have basic knowledge and skills with that training, it is very tempting just to have quizzes and things that measure whether the students heard you or understood the content. But that tells you nothing about whether the students are able to reproduce that, act on what they’re learning, or do something else with it.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a great tool to create depth in your online portion and also consider what you might do in the live portion to get to a place way beyond fact-based recall. Bloom’s taxonomy is developed to provide a common language for teachers to talk about learning and assessment. If you use Bloom’s taxonomy, that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can use. There’s also Costa’s levels and there are other ways to scaffold the different levels of learning that might happen in your course.

Bloom’s taxonomy basically includes six levels. It starts with basic knowledge, and that would be your fact-based recall, multiple-choice quizzing, question-answer about just the basic details.

And then, the next level is comprehension. This is where your students will demonstrate back to you that not only did they learn the facts about what they were learning in the class, but they comprehended. They have a greater depth of knowledge, and there’s some activity that has to be done with the learning to get to that point of comprehension demonstration.

The third level, is application what can students do with what they’re learning. As you think about application, this is where assessments come into play. If students are taught something and given some skills, and then they need to put it together to apply it, that can be demonstrated through some sort of assessment beyond quizzing.

The fourth level is analysis. Analysis is much more complex, and when you ask your students to do analysis with the content, some demonstration of what analysis is would be helpful. You can explain analysis and demonstrate analysis, and then ask your students to do the analysis.

The next level is synthesis. That’s bringing a lot of different things together.

And the final step in Bloom’s taxonomy, the top level, is evaluation. If you think about these different levels of learning activities or thinking that you might do in either your face-to-face or the online component of that blended course, it’s going to help you to also scaffold the activities from week one all the way through the end of the course. Say, for example, week one might begin with a lot of very basic-level knowledge and structural information, academic vocabulary, build up to the big ideas. Then later a few weeks into the course, you might have some comprehension and application of that knowledge.

As you’re moving through the course, ultimately students should be able to demonstrate some higher-order thinking. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation by the end of that course, at whatever appropriate level you select for the content. As you think about Bloom’s taxonomy throughout the course, but also throughout your assessments, this will help you to know: Did students really learn what you needed them to learn and understand in the class?

Tip 4: Design Collaboration and Interactivity

The next level is, on the next step in designing your blended learning course is, to create reasons for students to collaborate, interact with each other and their instructor, and work with the knowledge. This connects very well to Bloom’s taxonomy we just covered, when you consider that higher-order thinking activities require time, contemplation, and application of the learning to develop. If students can collaborate in real time during the face-to-face setting, you can design group work. You can do jigsaw conversations. There are many strategies you can employ during the live section to get students talking to each other and working together.

You can also use group activities online. This is very easy to do using the groups feature in Bright Space or other LMSs. You can also use discussion boards. You can have them do group projects. They can even schedule time outside of their asynchronous learning to get together on their own, live, to do a group project.

Tip 5: Create a Communication Plan

Because you have all these moving parts with your online content, in your live face-to-face teaching, a communication plan is essential to help your students know what to do.

You might have an online question-answer location, or a message board. If you’re having the live face-to-face portion first, this is a great time to guide students to engage with the online portion. So in the face-to-face meeting, you can pull up the screen, and you can walk them through the online part of your class. And then, of course, giving them some sort of handout or downloadable outline of each week of the course and where and when they should engage with each part of the course can also help your students follow along.

In my experience teaching a hybrid class several years ago, I spent most of the time during the live class over the first two weeks simply guiding students to get online and find their way around the classroom. If you don’t have a long period of time, you might create a video of yourself going to the classroom, and the face-to-face content, and showing students how to get each one. And what each one will involve.

Tip 6: Cultivate Resources, Online Content, and Learning Materials

Number six: cultivate resources, online content, and learning materials. Just like any class, these might include your textbooks, your video lessons, interactive web-based tools, and other content.

Whatever you put online can be as basic as reading and watching the videos, if needed. But if you can get a little bit more sophisticated, that will be more engaging for students. Ideally, it should be interactive in the online portion and take full advantage of the options available through modern technology. If you are going to create a lot of videos for the online portion, I suggest segmenting these into shorter videos of, maybe, five minutes each. That will help your students stay engaged and get through them one at a time, when their time allows.

Tip 7: Design your Assessments

I suggested during step one, thinking about your assessments early on, as you are setting the course goals. Now, this final step is to actually flesh out and design your assessments. And that could take place online, it could take place live, face-to-face. But those assessments need very clear guidance and instructions.

And as you review them yourself, ensure that they do map to the course goals. Do they actually measure what you intended to teach and what you did teach? Do they help students demonstrate those higher levels in Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking at the application and the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation stages?

If all you need is knowledge and comprehension, that’s pretty simple to do and could be done through essays and exams or oral activities as well.

Launching Your Blended Course

As you launch your blended course, review these seven steps to ensure you haven’t missed anything. And of course, “test drive” the content that you have. Make sure everything in your online segment of the course is accessible and viewable by your students, and works properly.

I wish you all the best in your quest of creating blended learning, and again hello to our friends in India who sent us this question. Thank you, and have a great week teaching online!

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#62: Connecting with Students Through Zoom

#62: Connecting with Students Through Zoom

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Engaging with students and building a sense of community in an online class can be very difficult. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses the benefits of hosting a Zoom meeting with students. Learn the numerous options for setting up a Zoom meeting that gives students an opportunity to interact and work together. Also learn tips to help teachers prepare to host a meeting, how to use breakout rooms and other technology tools to increase student engagement, and more.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can connect with your students through using Zoom for video conferences. Now, there are a lot of different ways to be engaged in your online teaching. You might consider having asynchronous classes where people just participate on their own and interact separately. Perhaps you have live classes where they are conducted online already. Or maybe you’re in some kind of hybrid situation where students will go to the online class for part of their work and meet with you face-to-face in the live physical classroom.

Regardless of your format, Zoom conferences for your students can really create relationships and introduce different types of engagement than anything else you might use. So I’m going to teach you today how to basically use Zoom in a few new ways, and I’m going to also help you overcome any hesitation you have to using Zoom by giving you tips and strategies to help you in this area.

This is a great solution for connecting with students who might be less achieving, less vocal, less present. And help them get engaged in small groups and smaller conversations so that they are getting a lot more out of the experience and connecting more with you and with each other. Let’s get started.

Integrating Zoom into Online Classes

How do you start a Zoom meeting, or how do you get one going? First, there are some learning management systems where Zoom is already integrated and it’s available for you to use. If you have Zoom integrated into Brightspace, into Canvas, into some other learning management system, then you’re already set with a way to set Zoom up so that you can talk to your students.

If you don’t have access to Zoom, you can set up a free account online for up to 40 minutes for a small group or a longer duration if you’re going to just have one-on-one calls. I recommend using your educator email address because there just might be some kind of special recognition that Zoom will give you to provide an educational discount or an education account of some kind. So if you don’t already have access, definitely check out those options that might be available.

Review and Update Zoom Settings

Looking at your Zoom meeting, you can see particular settings in the Zoom settings menu if you go in through a browser. For example, you can have all of your participants need to log in with their institutional email if you’re using an account that does that.

You can have a waiting room set up so you can let participants in one at a time. You can also give people permission to mute and unmute themselves, use video, and also you can choose whether they can save the chat or not save the chat. There are so many settings that are worth your time to investigate so that you can set up your meetings in a way that really suits you best and preserves students’ privacy as well. And of course, you can record those meetings and you can share those with students who cannot attend a live session.

Use Doodle or Survey to Find a Good Meeting Time

Once you’ve set Zoom up, the best way to move forward is to provide the invitation to students ahead of time. I recommend giving this information to your students at least one week ahead, so they can put it on their calendar and look forward to the meeting time.

You might even choose an app called Doodle, that you can mark with various times that are possible for you and send it out as a poll well in advance of your Zoom call. If you do this, students can let you know of all the many times they might be available to make that Zoom call and you can choose the scheduling that will work best for all of your students or most of them, at least. So a Doodle poll can set you up for success before you ever schedule that meeting.

Send Out Repeated Meeting Reminders

Once you’ve done that, I also so recommend putting announcements in your course home page, sending announcements out in emails and messages one week before the call, a day before the call, and a couple of hours before the call. And lastly, 10 minutes before the call is about to begin.

Students get a lot of emails and a lot of messages. And if they’re taking more than one class, they also read a lot of announcements. They’re going to need reminders repeatedly to know when your live call is scheduled in Zoom and to be able to access it and join you there.

Establish a Backup Plan for Internet Connectivity

Once it’s time for the call, you can succeed in meeting your students where they’re at by being early and having your technology set up with a backup plan if your internet should fail. For example, if you have a Wi-Fi internet at home and you’re working from home, it’s good to also have a hotspot on your cell phone so that if your internet blanks out, you don’t lose your connection to the Zoom meeting. I usually have two or even three backup plans because I really don’t want to lose any of my Zoom meetings, and I have many of them that happen throughout the day and throughout the week. So think about what your backup plan will be for internet.

Assign a Student Who Can Take Notes, Continue Meeting

Secondly, you can have someone work with you. It can even be a high-achieving student who can take notes during the meeting in the chat, or who can be listed as a cohost so that if something should happen to your access, someone will still be there that can make sure the meeting continues and that the progress can be made.

Decide on Your Background

When you’re setting up for the call, check the background in the room that you’re going to be in. If you have the latest version of Zoom, you can set the background to be blurry, so it actually doesn’t matter what’s in the background, or you can choose a virtual background if you have a good solid space. Otherwise, it’s going to pixelate through that virtual background and you’re going to see part of your background and part of the virtual background. I recommend the fuzzy background because it just focuses on you being there and being very clear and it blurs everything else.

Of course, there are some fun settings in Zoom where you can also adopt caricatures and makeup and mustaches and hats and different things. And if you’re having a fun meeting or a celebration, you might consider using those with your teammates or with your class members as well.

Test Your Audio Quality

Within the platform, you can choose whether you use an external mic on your computer or a headset or some other setup. I recommend using a headset and not using the external speakers and microphone on your computer because there can often be an echo produced when you do that.

So test your system out ahead of time and make sure that your sound quality is good and your video quality is good as well. If you find that these things are not good, troubleshoot them before you meet with your students live.

Prepare a Lesson Plan for the Meeting

The more you prepare in advance of conducting a live class meeting in Zoom, the more you’re going to find success there and have a positive experience. I do recommend approaching this as if you’re teaching a live face-to-face class. In that situation, you might prepare a detailed lesson plan. You might tell students up front what to expect and what you’re going to cover during the period of the meeting.

And you might also discuss what topics you’re going to do and any activities needed. For example, if you’re planning to use breakout rooms during your virtual meeting, you want to tell students ahead of time so they have access to a microphone and can be on video.

Establish Expectations with Students

It’s also a great idea to send those expectations out to your students well in advance of the meeting. For example, you might have a dress code if you don’t want students to show up in pajamas, or you want them to be dressed like they would be attending school, and you can also suggest what kinds of places they might be, where they’re on video.

For example, if they’re going to the local McDonald’s to get the internet to be in class, there might be a lot of background noise and they might need some kind of headphones or noise-canceling tools.

Think about Level of Student Engagement

You might also think about whether or not students have to engage in the text area. Plan this ahead of time. Zoom has excellent polling features. And if you want some basic interactivity, you can either use the chat box, you can call on students directly to make verbal comments live, or you can put a poll up there and have everybody participate that way.

There are also some external things you could have students access during the Zoom call, like Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere. And there are several others as well, where they could engage in polling, they can make word clouds. They can basically each contribute their own ideas in real time and feel like they’re actually engaging in what’s being discussed rather than being a passive consumer.

So think about these things ahead of time and plan out what your approach will be as well as a brief lesson plan. Tell your students ahead of time, check your background and what you’re wearing and make sure it looks clean, clear, professional, and confident. And then host your meeting.

Tips on Hosting Strategies

When you’re hosting your meeting and having that live call, sit up tall, roll your shoulders back a little bit to give yourself an extra boost of confidence, and help yourself to connect better with your students. Even though you’re on screen and you’re not really looking directly at each one of them, you want to look towards the camera so that you feel like you’re making eye contact with them and being present.

And whatever your plan is for engaging them during the live call, definitely include lots of ways to engage. As I mentioned before, these could be typing in the text box, these could be polling features or external programs. And you could also put them in breakout rooms.

Prepare Breakout Rooms in Advance

If you use breakout rooms, I highly recommend putting the questions out in advance because once they leave the main room, they can no longer see any slides you were sharing or the questions you might have. You can also broadcast a message to all of the rooms if you put people in groups, so that they can still see what they need to see and be able to talk about it while they’re in that breakout room.

And definitely tell students if they’re going to do a breakout, how long it will be, and ask them to appoint a timekeeper in each group. Even though Zoom might time the breakout rooms for you, you want someone in that group to keep everyone aware of how little time they have left as that time is winding down. Nobody likes being jerked out of a breakout room abruptly in the middle of a comment.

Assessing Student Engagement and Community

Now, you can look around the video screen and see where students are, and sometimes you can even see their demeanor and whether they’re tracking along with the meeting or the presentation. You can also see if they’re just a name with no camera enabled, and you can engage with people anyway and call on their names or have them type in the chat.

Sometimes students are caring for little ones at home, and they’re not really able to chat on video, but they would be able to type in the chat and are still there with you, even though they don’t want to be on screen. I personally believe you should respect that because not everyone is comfortable being on screen, but also we can’t really gauge that they’re all fully present just by seeing them. We can also gauge that presence through the chat and other features that we might use.

Either way, you’re going to create a sense of community by using Zoom in your online class, so students feel more connected to you and more connected to each other. And they can also get this whole sense of community that they’re part of a big program in a university or a school that you’re teaching for.

Zoom has the potential to really take conversations deeper, especially if you use those breakouts and other tools, and help your students to feel like they’re a lot more engaged and invested. I personally have used Zoom a lot in teaching and coaching and in leading faculty meetings.

And also I have used it with one-on-one calls. Even though sometimes it can seem a little bit much for a one-on-one call, I have really enjoyed being able to see people face to face and engage with them, and they have appreciated being able to see me while they’re talking to me as well. And many have said that.

As you try Zoom in your online teaching, I encourage you to stretch in several of these ways to try the different things you can integrate and see how creative you might be, and definitely inform students ahead of time, and practice. You want to be confident and not have technical glitches while you’re carrying it out. As you do these things, you’re going to get a lot more engagement from your students, and they’re going to get trust for you and reach out to you whenever they have problems in the course. And that’s a good thing.

Best wishes to you in creating your Zoom meetings and connecting better with your students, and solving the problem of that distance we all have in online education. And best wishes in all of your teaching this coming week as well.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

 Are you looking for ways to enhance class content in your classes, but concerned about the time and effort it might take to create and manage those assets? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen recommends several technology tools to help you add valuable audio, video, and multimedia components. Most importantly, she provides guidance on developing a strategic approach to creating these new assets, including making sure it’s accessible and useful to students, has a positive impact on your teaching, and isn’t overwhelming for you to create and manage.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, the show that helps you teach online with confidence and impact while living a healthy, balanced life. I’m Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge. My background is in K-12 education and also in higher education, and both live, face-to-face classes and online.

Something I really enjoy about online teaching is being able to integrate different varieties of multimedia into courses to make them more engaging. For example, we can use audio, video, interactive media, and animations. There are more programs and apps to consider than it might be possible to use effectively and more are created every year. It’s easy to struggle with the overload we can all face when we look at this huge variety.

If you’re sometimes tempted by what I call bright and shiny object syndrome when teaching online, this is the temptation to try out new and fresh apps or interfaces, you’re not alone. Finding a new tool can bring fun and interest in your own work as an educator. However, this same set of possibilities we find in the latest and greatest media apps or platforms can quickly cause us to spend a lot of time upfront learning and not enough time actually developing the course or teaching the class.

My focus now is on teaching excellence at an entirely online university. And I believe media and related tools can help us reach our students in new and better ways. At the same time, I suggest using a strategic approach to innovating that allows you to regularly try and use new methods while also reducing the tendency to get overwhelmed by bright and shiny object syndrome. This way, you don’t spend too much time learning and exploring possibilities and not enough time actually using them.

In today’s podcast, we’ll explore several engaging media options and ways that you can approach them strategically so that you and your students are most likely to benefit. After all, through this podcast, I help online educators become more effective in their work while also living healthy and balanced lives by using intentional approaches so that they can love what they do and impact their students positively.

We will first take a look at several audio, video, and multimedia apps or programs you might try. Then we’ll talk about a strategy to intentionally explore and use these special pieces of technology in your teaching. And lastly, we will also reflect on reflecting. How will you decide if it’s working and if your plan is what you’d like it to be? I hope you’ll enjoy these strategies this week. And so we’ll just get started.

Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content

Beginning with audio, there are four particular audio interfaces I’d like to share with you today.


The first one is called audioboom.com. Now, there are many different hosting services for creating podcasts and creating hosted audio. This is just one of the many. AudioBoom is a web-based service that lets users create and share podcasts. They’re available at audioboom.com and through the service, you could create a podcast audio recording or entire networks of audio shows. This content can easily be shared with a player that embeds onto a webpage or into a learning management system.

This service can easily be used in your online education if you’d like to create little episodes of things you’re talking about in your teaching. It can also be used for students to create their own episodes as they’re putting together some kind of project or assignment to report back on their learning.


A second app is SpeakPipe. Now, SpeakPipe is a very interesting thing and it’s available at speakpipe.com/voice-recorder. When you get to this page, you’ll notice it’s a free online voice recorder. It could be used as a widget, it can be used on your mobile device through an app, or browser extension add-on, or right through the website. And of course, you can use this for audio, as I’m sharing with you now.

You can receive voice messages from your students directly using this recording tool, as it’s embedded easily in the classroom. You can also use it to receive voicemail through the webpage link. It has that free online voice recorder that I mentioned, and you can share sound files of up to five minutes in length instantly through links as well as through the embedded feature.

Now, if you go to the speakpipe.com voice recorder page, you’ll notice that it really is that simple. It just has a green button right in the middle of the page that says “Start Recording.” So you can record your audio, listen to it, and then send it. It works on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. You can send it through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus. You can also embed it and share links through the web. It’s incredibly versatile and very easy to use.


A third audio service is called Talk&Comment. Talk&Comment also has a browser extension so you can add it to Google Chrome, you can use it as a widget, you can use it on the mobile device app and so forth. You can also access it at talkandcomment.com through the web, so the direct web page there.

Talk&Comment lets you create voice notes inside any service on the web, including Google Classroom, Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Reddit, Slack, and a lot of other things too.

When you add this to your Chrome browser, it literally allows you to create notes that you’re going to record with your voice anywhere. And you can send those in all of these different ways that I mentioned. You simply record your voice from the widget in your browser and paste the generated voice link anywhere you want.

It’s a really interesting way to share voice notes and also capture your thoughts. It’s pretty much as easy as sitting face-to-face with your students and having a conversation with them where you’re sharing your ideas. Because people talk faster than they write, you can evaluate your students’ work with voice grading using half the time if you try this tool.

It’s not only useful in presenting content, but also in grading students’ work and helping them create interesting projects. I highly recommend taking a look at Talk&Comment for its versatility and also ease of use.


A fourth and final audio tool that I’d like to share with you today is called Vocaroo. It’s a free online voice recorder provided as a widget and available at vocaroo.com. Through this app, you can make audio recordings directly on the page, and you can also share the recorded content with web links or embed codes. And you can download the sound file as an MP3, OGG, FLAC, or WAV file. You can also delete the sound recording from Vocaroo’s hosting site when needed.

There’s nothing personally identifiable that is recorded with your information, so you’re going to create these sound files that really don’t tie to you, yourself, your students. So there’s a little bit of anonymity with that that protects you to some degree. But also, it’s easy to use and free. Who doesn’t like free, right? So embedding the widget makes it fun. And also, sharing little voice recordings people really seem to enjoy.

So I recommend trying it with students, especially in things like world language classes or where they’re going to need to do some kind of recorded speaking. They can make narrations or other recordings for things like projects. They can submit assignments using Vocaroo. They could record their voice using Vocaroo and post it in a discussion forum. So instructors and students alike can both use Vocaroo very easily.

And one idea you might have is to generate a short podcast to have students try this as a project. So it’s a really great tool. Basically, you’re going to go to vocaroo.com and simply use their easy online recorder. It’s just got a big red button with a microphone in the middle, and then it gives you some options when you’re all finished recording. Easy to use. And again, it’s free.

Adding Video Content to the Classroom

Now, just as audio content can be simple to create and share and also really bring your presence and your students’ knowledge to the forefront, video content can even more enhance your presence, and also what students are bringing to the situation.

If you’d like to add video elements, there are so many tools out there now, and a lot of learning management systems provide integration that’s very automatic and simple to use. For example, you might have something like Kaltura embedded in your learning management system, or even just the built-in video system that the learning management comes with.

Whatever it is, I don’t need to give you a whole lot of video capturing tools because so many already exist within whatever you might be using. I would like to highlight two here today. Simple videos can be created using Screencast-O-Matic, and you can also try Screencastify.


Screencast-O-Matic is a free subscription-based site that enables you to make screen recordings, and you can find it at screencast-o-matic.com. This tool is really easy to make video guides, like if you want to explain assignment details or walk students through areas of your online classroom, or maybe you want to illustrate and explain a concept with some visuals.

This site could easily be used to record over short clips of sound quality. Like if you’re a music appreciation instructor, maybe you want to play a musical performance video clip and talk over it and give some direction to your students, allowing some narration to occur and maybe explaining elements of the music as it’s happening.

It gives you screen, camera, and screen-sharing possibilities, and finished products can easily be saved as video files. You can upload them to the Screencast-O-Matic website or to YouTube. And there are just a lot of options there with which you can store your content.


The second option is Screencastify, and just like Screencast-O-Matic, Screencastify is a free web-based video recording tool. This tool is advertised as an add-on screen recorder for Chrome browsers because it just puts an icon into the browser to allow you easy access.

Screencastify offers both free and subscription-based and premium-level products. And I highly recommend checking out both of these options and deciding which one simply works best for you, which interface you prefer, and what you’d like to use.

Tips for Making Great Video Content

Now, I’d like to say just a little bit more here about video content because I’m only mentioning a couple of interfaces. So here are a few tips about adding video. Video can, of course, enhance your course. It can also create some challenges because you’re going to spend a little bit more time. You’re not just editing audio, you’re also looking at how it’s coming across at the same time.

However, it can be really a huge asset for welcoming your students, introducing yourself, lecturing about your content, narrating the content, explaining ideas, and otherwise guiding your students. So it takes some time, but it adds way more personalization than audio alone can do.

Consider asking your students to create videos as part of a forum discussion or an assignment. This can also help with originality checking, if you’re wondering who’s really creating that assignment. If it’s a video assignment, you’ll start to see the same person each time and not have a concern so much about that originality of who’s really submitting the work.

Having a lot of methods to capture your video can be helpful. And again, we’re trying to reduce the overwhelm so start with one and then explore others in the future.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to record video. You can make even more complex videos with captions, transitions, and other elements with purchased software. A lot of things like Camtasia will bring that feature suite to help you add a lot of bells and whistles to your video presentations. And of course, you can spend a lot of time really making them better and better and more engaging.

And sound quality is dramatically improved when you use a headset microphone and not just the microphone on your computer. You can clean up the audio noise, bring the speaking voice in more directly. You can balance the sound with maybe background music or something else, if you really want to get crazy about your videos.

You can use a smartphone to capture the video and upload the video to another app or a program, or just upload the different files into your LMS. You could also branch out and get a separate digital video camera or digital video recorder that’s more high quality than what comes on a smartphone or a computer. But I don’t recommend investing really heavily until you’ve explored the software and the possibilities for why and when you might personally choose to use the video in your class or in your teaching. If you do decide to invest in high-quality video tools, microphones, and lighting, those things can improve the quality of your instructor-created videos. So think about the content, the background, the lighting, the appearance, and the length.

Content should be concise. You might want to chunk up ideas into separate videos so students can look at them one at a time and see the topics broken down, or segment your topics into the smallest component so you have these shorter videos.

And also, think about how you might produce the captions or the written component for students who need that alternative approach. We always want to supply those things in the classroom so students don’t have to ask us if they need some kind of accommodation to see what you’re saying. Be sure to always include it so it’s accessible automatically for everyone.

Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom

Now, in terms of interactive or multimedia types of tools, I’m going to speak only about two of these today. Again, I’m a real big fan of not overwhelming you. I want to give you some options to help you get started without giving you far too much.


The first one I want to talk about is Prezi. Prezi is a web-based program. You can access it online. It also had, in the past, a classic version that was downloadable so you could create it on your desktop. But also, you can use it in the mobile app as well, so it’s very versatile. You can create dynamic presentations through Prezi. You can either get the free or paid membership and you can create multimedia presentations that move, that zoom in and out. You can embed videos, PowerPoint slides, and other things in a Prezi to make it even more interesting and engaging. It’s a more interactive alternative to PowerPoint. Basically, you can share it through links or downloaded files.

Prezis can easily be used for students to create presentations as well, such as how to put facts and information together and how to present what they have learned. It can be also used effectively by groups of students to produce some group projects. All of the members can contribute to one final presentation. There is a whole bunch of information out there with tutorials, learning materials, and support for using Prezis.


The second option I’d like to share today is Powtoon for education. Powtoon is a website that provides templates, graphics, motion, and other features to build short and engaging videos. And you can check it out at powtoon.com/edu-home. These cartoon-like images are included, but you can also use photographs and videos of your own if you’d like to.

It’s an alternative to traditional instructor-made videos, and really, it’s an engaging way to convey information that’s fun too. One common use of Powtoon in online education is to present an introduction to the instructor. You might also consider using it to put together short lesson presentations, or even to enable your students to create projects.

Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology

Now, let’s talk a little bit about how you might intentionally explore and utilize your new technology, whether it’s audio, video, or media related. The first part is to decide your why. Why would you use these tools or why do you want to explore particular tools?

Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?

Well, the first reason I can think of that is probably the best one is that it’s going to promote student engagement and student learning. When you provide any kind of recorded content like a podcast or a video in your lessons, this can also minimize learning anxiety and increase motivation for all of your students.

If you were to think about your own reason for being an educator and what you’re trying to accomplish through your online teaching, think about particular tools that are going to enhance that mission that you’re on. What really are you trying to do with your students?

Some things you might think about when you’re trying to decide why you might integrate something are what you’re going to do with it. For example, are you trying to help students use the app or tool to collaborate? Are you helping bring the content to light for them? Are you giving them interactive ways to engage with the content and further their learning? As you think about those things, you’ll better be able to decide when and why you would be using it.

When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?

The second half of the when question is, when is it really a good time for you to integrate this kind of content in a course or in your teaching?

It’s my personal stance that each piece of media content, whether it’s audio, video, or interactive, included in your online course should serve a purpose and not just be a bright shiny object; and you want to thoughtfully integrate this.

As you bring course materials and topics to life through these interactive means, audio, video, media, bringing it to life and helping students really see it more clearly is a justifiable purpose. You can also help them gain meaning from tools and content in the way that you use the content. How the students are expected to work with it while viewing or engaging with the content, and the way they’re going to recap or review the whole experience. Maybe they’re going to reflect on their learning or the experience of creating using these tools.

8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools

Think about the following eight tips as you create your media content or explore different tools.

  1. The first step is to choose the resources wisely for both the content you’re going to include and the quality it’s going to put out there.
  2. And second, how can you comply with copyright restrictions and properly attribute the sources you might use in this type of content?
  3. Third, how will you introduce your students to topics and key points to be presented before they use or engage in the content? Or is the content itself the way to introduce students to the topic and key points?
  4. Fourth, if it’s a video clip, I suggest keeping it between seven and 15 minutes long total to maintain focus. And if possible, break it down to even smaller pieces.
  5. Fifth, give your students engagement tasks to complete while they’re viewing the video, listening to the audio, or engaging with the interactive element, like answering specific questions about the points, things to note, and so forth.
  6. Sixth, promote some kind of reflection or thoughtful integration after they’ve viewed, listened to, or engaged with the content. It might be answering questions or going to the discussion forum to talk about it.
  7. Seventh, verify that the things you’re going to use, whether it’s audio, video, or a multimedia interactive, you want to verify that these things are accessible and free from technical issues. Basically, students of all types and of all platforms need to be able to reliably see, hear, or engage with it in a variety of systems and formats.
  8. And lastly, number eight, if you’re using external video content in any of these things that you didn’t create as an instructor, be sure to use it to extend the lecture or add to what’s happening, rather replacing your instructor role.

All of the multimedia tools and strategies that you use, they can be instructor-created or they can be student-created, or someone outside of you can develop them. If students are going to use these tools to create their own assignments and projects, you want to also give them a tip sheet, how-to guides, and really helpful examples so they’re not lost in trying new media themselves, and they can actually enjoy the process and engage with things appropriately.

Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools

Now, the last piece in this entire process would be at regular intervals to reflect on your plan. As you reflect upon your plan and how you’re trying new tools or using them in your online teaching or in your course design, you might consider asking yourself, is your plan working? Have you devoted enough time each day/week/month, or year to exploring potential options? Or are you spending too much time and exploring too many options? Are you able to use what you’d like to try without getting overwhelmed? And how would you like to adjust your approach to ensure that you can continue to try these new things for the benefit of yourself and your students without that overwhelm of just getting stuck in the learning curve without actually using the tools the best way possible?

As we close out the podcast this week, I encourage you to consider the various interactive elements you might try in your online teaching, including audio, video, multimedia, and artistic assets that you create. As you decide how you might use various methods and strategies, always, more importantly, consider why you might use them. And then create an intentional plan to regularly explore and learn about these ideas and a strategic approach to selecting and using them.

Working through your plan to keep yourself growing and learning while reducing the possibility of getting overwhelmed will help you to always be learning and actually use the tools. Then at regular intervals, as you look back on your learning and your implementation of these kinds of tools and approaches, you can feel like you’ve actually brought new things to the classroom and new things to your teaching over time.

Is your time and strategy manageable? Do the tools you’re using have a positive impact on your teaching? And do they help students learn? And what might you change in your approach over time? As you think about these things, think about the best possible way to implement it in small, strategic approaches to keep it manageable.

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We took a look at how we might approach the wide variety of media and interactive elements that can be incorporated into online teaching using this intentional strategic approach that also includes continuous learning by reflecting back on your own process so the approach works best for you.

I hope you will think about the possibilities and consider one new thing you might try this week in this area to keep your teaching fresh and help your students become more engaged as well. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

Note: Materials consulted for this episode come from Teaching Music Appreciation Online, published by Oxford University Press.